A major concern of communication researchers is to explain emergent, collective social phenomena such as the dynamics of public opinion, collective attention, and collective action. This goal requires bridging different levels of analysis, from individual actions to group interactions and aggregate dynamics. Many long-standing theories in communication, such as the spiral of silence or cultivation theory, offer intuitions of how those levels of analysis can be integrated, but precisely for that reason such theories are difficult to test empirically – at least using conventional, inferential methods.
Agent-based modelling (ABM) offers an analytical approach to hypothesize about and understand the mechanisms bringing about emergent patterns at the levels of groups and populations. Explaining social phenomena in terms of ABM means letting heterogeneous actors – or agents – interact in a simulated environment according to simple rules. The purpose of the models is to assess how those interactions generate, from the bottom up, the regularities that we can observe at the collective level. The approach offers a powerful tool to model complex systems, with clear applications in the social sciences and, in particular, in communication, with its emphasis on the dynamic and complex nature of social influence and media effects.
This special issue aims to publish research that demonstrates the analytical potential and methodological contribution of ABM for media and communication research. We particularly welcome submissions that use ABM to make substantive contributions to long-standing research problems of the field. This includes research that aims to:
- develop communication theories;
- model empirical communication phenomena such as opinion trends, polarization, or information diffusion;
- predict future scenarios of communication dynamics,
- assess the (unintended) consequences of interventions, and
- solve theoretical and methodological problems associated to more conventional methods.
Submissions may originate from any subfield of communication and should highlight the methodological innovation and substantive contribution of the work, addressing as appropriately questions of rigor, validation, reproducibility, and limitations.
The deadline for manuscripts to be considered for the special issue is March 15, 2019. Authors should include a statement in the cover letter that the manuscript is being submitted for the special issue on Agent-Based Modeling. Manuscripts will be peer reviewed and a final decision rendered until September 2019, with a target publication of the issue in late 2019.
Instructions for authors and a description of the online submission process can be found on the journal’s home page.